Friday, December 3, 2010

New GMO Plants Grow Pharmaceutical Drugs

New Genetically Modified Plants Grow Pharma Drugs

Chemists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a process of genetically engineering plants to produce synthetic compounds.

The team of researchers, headed by Associate Professor Sarah O’Connor, added bacterial genes to the periwinkle plant, which enabled it to attach halogens (such as chlorine or bromine) to alkaloids, a class of compounds that are normally produced in the plant.

“We’re trying to use plant biosynthetic mechanisms to easily make a whole range of different iterations of natural products,” said O’Connor. “If you tweak the structure of natural products, very often you get different or improved biological and pharmacological activity.”

The research was funded by the American Cancer Society and the National Institutes of Health, and was published in the November 3rd online edition of Nature. This newly developed process creates plants that can literally grow synthetic pharmaceutical compounds, which pharmaceutical companies can then patent.

The implications and uses of such advanced genetic manipulation of nature are sure to be many, the effects of which are yet to be seen.


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